|Westvleteren (abbey Our Lady of St. Sixtus)|
- History of the abbey - the origins
The Monastery of Our Lady of Saint Sixtus is located in West Flanders, approximately 4 kilometers from the village of Westvleteren and an equal distance from Poperinghe. It is 12 kilometers of the town of Ypres, which became famous after the First World War. The abbey of Saint Sixtus is also just 18 kms from the French monastery of the Mont des Cats, located in French Flanders.
At the beginning of the 19th century, a deep and dark forest still covered the site of the Abbey of Saint Sixtus. A vault located in this forest gave the monastery its name. Since 1814, a hermit lived in this loneliness: Jean Baptiste Victoor, trader of hops, born in Reninghelst on October 22, 1756, who was not without fortune and whose ambition was to found a convent in honor of the Virgin Mary. It is why he had bought a dozen hectares all around its hermitage. But how to form a community?
Victoor understood that, alone, he could never undertake his projects. Therefore, he presented his ideas to Dom Germain, Abbot of Our Lady of Le Gard (close to Amiens, France). Following the approval of the prelate, a small colony of monks depending on the abbey of Our Lady of Gard left the Mont des Cats and took the road for the forest of Saint Sixtus. They were led by the reverend father François Van Langendonck. November 4, 1831 marks the date of the foundation, because it is this day that the first solemn mass was celebrated in the poor building placed at the disposal of the newcomers by their benefactor. Jean Baptiste Victoor did not live long after the arrival of the monks; he died on May 8, 1832. In 1863, a modest monument was set up in the Church to evoke his memory forever.